Abducted woman's family: 'She's a fighter'

Posted: November 04, 2014

WHATEVER Carlesha Freeland-Gaither wants, she fights for, her family said.

On Sunday night, she fought like hell for her life.

Carlesha, 22, was abducted by an unknown man on a Germantown street about 9:30 p.m. and the entire disturbing incident - including the young woman's brave resistance - was caught on surveillance camera.

"I can tell you one thing, she's a fighter. She was not just giving up, she wasn't just going to be taken" said Carlesha's mother, Keisha Gaither. "She's going to keep fighting to the end. She's coming back to me."

Last night, Mayor Nutter announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Carlesha's abductor.

While police and the victim's family said Carlesha has no known enemies and her abduction appears to be a random attack, they believe that the abductor may have targeted her, given the precise timing of his actions.

Derek Alston, Carlesha's grandfather, said she had taken the bus from 2nd Street and Chelten Avenue to the stop near her home, at Greene Street near Chelten Avenue. Her mother said she was coming home from a visit with her godson.

Carlesha was supposed to call her live-in boyfriend so he could meet her at the stop to walk her to their home six blocks away on Greene Street near Hansberry, Alston said, but she never made the call.

Carlesha, who lives at 117 Hansberry St., is black, 5-feet-3, 125 pounds, thin with a medium complexion. She has a tattoo on her lower back, braided hair and a pierced tongue.

Surveillance footage shows that Carlesha's abductor parked on Coulter Street just off of Greene, three blocks away from her stop and just 17 seconds before the bus she was on is seen passing by Coulter Street.

The kidnapper got out of his vehicle and crossed the street, where he confronted Carlesha at the corner of Greene and Coulter. She crossed Coulter Street, trying to get away from the man, but when she got to the other corner, he grabbed her and dragged her down to his car as she fought with everything inside her to get away.

Even after he got her to his vehicle, Carlesha continued to fight and flail until her abductor overpowered her, punched her in the head and pushed her in the backseat.

"It's devastating to watch that video. You see him pull up. He's so calm," said Gaither. "I see him dragging my daughter. I see him hitting my daughter. You can see the way it looks like he was setting her up, it looks like something that was planned."

With just the left rear bumper of the abductor's parked car in the surveillance footage, it's still quite clear that the vehicle is violently shaking from Carlesha's protestations.

A witness later told police that they heard Carlesha yelling for help, they saw her lose her cellphone and glasses during the struggle and they saw her break out a rear window of her abductor's vehicle.

"She's not a violent person but she's a fighter, all the way around," Alston said.

At about the time that Carlesha's abductor got her to his vehicle, another car pulled down Coulter Street and stopped in full view of the abduction. The car stayed in the middle of the street, just to the rear of the abductor's car, for 18 seconds before the driver slowly reversed his vehicle back down the street and away from the scene.

A police spokeswoman said the driver of that second car has been identified and questioned.

As for Carlesha's family, questions are all they have right now.

Gaither and Alston said they can't think of a single person who would want to do Carlesha harm.

"She's a very sweet, humble person, she doesn't bother nobody," Gaither said. "She makes friends with a grasshopper. That's why this is so crazy."

Carlesha lived with her boyfriend, whom she was supposed to call to walk her home from the bus stop that night. He only found out about her abduction, Alston said, when he called her cellphone to check on her and a detective answered.

The couple had just gotten a puppy they named Ash a few weeks ago and Carlesha enjoyed working as a certified nursing assistant at Presbyterian Hospital, Alston and Gaither said.

"She's very, very nice, so easy to get along with and an easy-to-talk-to person," Alston said. "She is always upbeat."

Carlesha's family spent yesterday canvassing the neighborhood with flyers of her holding that brand-new puppy.

They didn't find out much and they haven't really heard anything.

"I can't think of what else to do right now," Alston said.

The suspect is described as a 5-foot-10 black man between 25 and 30 years old with a medium build and a medium-brown complexion. He was wearing a dark jacket, a dark hat and dark pants.

The vehicle he was driving was a 2000 to 2002 dark gray metallic four-door Ford Taurus with a rear spoiler. The driver's side rear window has been broken out and the car does not have inspection stickers. Police said the car's license-plate number remained unknown.

Tipsters with information on Carlesha's abduction are urged to call the Philadelphia Police Department's tip line at 215-686-8477.

- Staff writer Morgan Zalot contrbuted to this report.


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Online: ph.ly/crime

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